Public Library Association (PLA) Conference News-Teen Services

“Challenge yourself at #PLA2016 to be extraordinary because extraordinary libraries
create extraordinary communities.”  This was the theme for the bi-annual conference and it seemed to have genuinely expressed just that.

I began the conference by leading a preconference titled “Emerging Adults in Our Libraries: Who are They and Where do we Find Them?” and while the theme doesn’t specifically pertain to teen services I think a lot of teen librarians (and this was part of the impetus for the research for the presentation) will attest to the reality that this is something they see and think a lot about with serving teens; what happens to them in terms of services and programs after they “age out” of teen services?  This was a central focus of the research that myself and three other librarians embarked upon in 2015 by launching a nation wide survey into the work libraries are doing with and for emerging adults (ages 18-25/30).  The presentation at PLA introduced our research findings, had participants do an activity based on real life scenarios we heard from librarians with our research, participants shared out possible solutions and then an expert panel spoke about the work they are doing with emerging adults and their families as well.  Tomas Mejia, Director of Migrant Education at the Department of Education, Colorado, Clayton Gonzalez, Director of Programs, Urban Peak (a Denver, Colorado nonprofit that provides a full convergence of services for youth age 15 through 25 experiencing homelessness or at risk for becoming homeless) and Alberto Pellicer, Early Literacy Librarian, Denver Public Library.  A blog has been created that includes information from the preconference, articles about this population, outreach to this population, and opportunities for other librarians to share the work they are doing with this population.

The Bubbler @ Madison Public Libraries: A System-Wide Approach to Learning through Making was a great introduction into the work that Madison, Wisconsin Public Library is doing with and for peoples of all ages with technology programming, DIY programs, an artist in residence program and more.  The Bubbler is a program and not a specific space, the programs take place in the Central Library, the 7 branches, schools, juvenile justice centers and in the community.  There is a BIG focus on this kind of work with teens in schools, in the library and in the juvenile justice system and this is a library recognized effort.  Making Justice  is a community-based learning program for court-involved teens that includes weekly workshops and an artist-in-residence opportunity.  They are doing all kinds of programming opportunities for teens involved in the juvenile justice system with music programming, bringing in hand drawn animation stations and more.  The Bubbler is through an IMLS and NEA grants. Check out the Teen Bubbler site.

making justice

I visited the Denver Public Library and had a chance to see the Idea Lab in action during time for teens in the space; Monday through Friday 3:00-6:00 pm.  The SM Energy ideaLAB is a makerspace and digital media lab at the Central Library. With equipment and software, people can make videos, games, music, art, crafts, and more. The lab is free to anyone – no library card necessary!  Not too many barriers for teens to use the space in terms of not having a library card, no problem.

Sustainable Connected Learning for Youth focused on the initiative that the Cuyahoga County Library System has rolled out as a pilot in five locations with Connected Learning. The Information and Technology Department spearheaded this initiative by training staff in the focus areas of Connected Learning as well as provided ideas and worked with staff in identifying program ideas like STEAM programming, mentoring/social component and on the fly programming.

The article in School Library Journal in March 2016 introduced some of us to the work Denver Public Library is doing with asset mapping and I joined the session, Teen Asset Mapping: A Community Development Approach to Teen Services Expansion to learn more about what they are doing.  The Director of Denver Public Library and a staff consisting of librarians (one being the only Teen Librarian on the staff at DPL) and library associates worked tirelessly on this project beginning in 2013 with the idea that they weren’t providing teen services and wanted to but what would that look like in a city with a strong number of organizations that do provide teen services/programs.  The idea was to identify what the assets for teens are in Denver; this would be outside library organizations and find out what exactly they are doing with and for teens.  They developed questions and interviewed over 40 organizations and through the responses created a list of categories like juvenile justice system, teen parents, homeless youth, along with services/programs being provided.  What came out of the research was a better understanding of what services/programs there were in Denver and what services/programs weren’t being offered and what needs there may be.  The staff at DPL did an incredible amount of work on this and they are accessible; contact them through the link above as well as check out the resources they have available for more in depth information.

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